Korea and Japan could have become the first World Cup without Brazil.
Hard as it is to imagine, especially so for the 175 million population who follow their every movements with fanatical dedication, it was perilously close to becoming reality.
Six defeats - all of them away from home - meant the Brazilians had to sweat until their final match against Venezuela on 14 November.
ROUTE TO THE FINALS
But a 3-0 victory in the north-eastern city of Saġ Luis confirmed their presence in the Far East as the third automatic qualifiers from the 10-team South American Conmebol group.
If Brazil are to emulate their success from eight years ago, a substantial improvement in form - and consistency - is needed.
Defeats against Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador hurt the country as much as the 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Argentina in September 2001.
The inability to defeat the "lesser" nations was the main reason for their faltering campaign which ultimately cost Wanderley Luxemburgo and Emerson Leao their tenures as national manager.
But now the pressure is firmly on current coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, the man charged with bringing the trophy back to its spiritual home.
He boasts an array of talent most national managers can only dream of: Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Juninho, Serginho, Cafu and Giovane Elber - the list is endless.
And they qualified for Korea and Japan without their most potent weapon, Ronaldo.
If the Inter Milan striker stays free of injury, World Cup victory number five is surely within reach.